Malnutrition in the Elderly
These days, malnutrition is actually becoming quite prevalent in the elderly population. Over the next 50 years, the number of people aged over 75 is predicted to double.
As a health professional and accredited dietitian and nutritionist, Ai Jerome has a great interest in helping to solve this problem.
Many elderly people are isolated, and also economically disadvantaged. Even if they lead healthy and independent lives, they are often frail, and more prone to disability and illness as they get older.
Many older people are underweight, and the chances of them being underweight increases if they are in a nursing home.
Perhaps the cause for malnutrition in the elderly has to do with the some of the physical problems they experience.
Many have trouble standing or walking, many have difficulty in seeing, and many have problems walking down the road or managing stairs, which can mean that shopping for food can be difficult.
Many of the elderly have difficulty cooking their own meals. Another factor to take into account is that older people actually have different nutritional neesd to normal adults.
As people get older it becomes increasingly difficult to swallow. Their manual dexterity decreases, and they may be experiencing socioeconomic challenges. Their bodies are more prone to infection, and less able to absorb nutrients.
The elderly also experience a diminished sensory ability, which means they cannot taste, smell or hear as well – and they also experience reduced appetite.
Because of these factors, it is all the more important for the elderly to make sure they maintain a high-quality diet, as the amount of food they consume also decreases with age.
Dentures can provide a problem with chewing food, so an ideal diet for an elderly person with dentures should take this into account.
Many elderly people, due to a lack of mobility, are overly reliant on tinned food, because it is harder for them to get to the shops. Some depend on Meals On Wheels.
Another factor to take into account with the elderly is drug use, which can affect their ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize some foods.
If elderly people are undertaking surgery, this may also alter their food requirements. In order to have a speedy recovery from surgery or illness, proper nutrition is even more important in the elderly.
Even in hospital, elderly patients can still experience malnutrition.
A responsible healthcare professional can assess the needs of an elderly person and addres their nutritional problems. These can vary from case to case, but may involve the addition of oral nutritional supplements to the diet.
If you are elderly, or are concerned about the health and nutrition of a friend, neighbour or family member, please get in touch.
We are also happy to consult to Aged Care organisations, conduct staff education and training, or give educational presentations to groups.
Please contact us for more information or to make an appointment.